Things have been a bit quiet here recently, but in case you wondered, that’s because most list authors are Christians and this is the Triduum (last three days) of Holy Week.
Some are busy with religious matters and others won’t post on principle. I am also indexing a book (always a rush job in principle because the index is the only thing that keeps a book from the press at that point – so no one cares that it’s Holy Week for me).
But as this is Holy Saturday, I am going to talk briefly for a moment about … Religion.
One of the dumbest things I hear “new atheists” say is that faith means “belief without evidence.”
I don’t know what kind of a sheltered life such people can have lived, but their views might have something to do with tenure at tax-supported universities.
Religious doctrines are believed for a variety of reasons. For convenience, I’ll refer only to my own, Catholic Christian, tradition, and this is by no means an exhaustive list, just five reasons for now:
1. Some doctrines are based strictly on evidence. The existence of God, for example, is attested by the nature of the universe. A revealing moment in the Expelled movie was when arch-atheist Richard Dawkins admitted to Ben Stein that space aliens creating life and multiple universes were alternative ideas he’d consider.
What? That’s the best they’ve got? Well, let’s see if I can fiddle the dial and find the Back to God Hour. Glad it’s still on the air …
2. Some doctrines are based on logic. For example, why are there not Two Gods? Well, what happens when the irresistible force meets the immovable object? The point is, it can’t happen. So there are not Two Gods. Or Many.
3. Some doctrines are based on reason. One of the sillier new atheist arguments is “Who designed the designer?” Well, any series can have a beginning. If, as most now think, the Big Bang started the universe, there must have been a wider context. It is reasonable to think this context was the will of God, based on the fine-tuned universe we actually see.
The question of God’s origin, if even askable, lies outside this universe and outside anything the human mind can think. That is why God was traditionally called, in philosophical contexts, the First Cause. That’s like the number 1. Don’t ask which natural number comes before it. The answer is none.
4. Some doctrines are based on the testimony of reliable witnesses – sane, stable people with no record of deceit, who would rather lose their property, liberty, or life than deny what they saw or heard, and have nothing to gain from promoting a story that would cost them all that. The usual way they explain it is “We must fear God rather than men.”
5. Some doctrines are based on experience – a form of evidence. I have observed that a great many people who come to an active faith later in life had an experience that they could only account for by returning to the practice of their faith (or finding a new one). An unexpected healing, perhaps?: The doctors have pronounced the patient’s case hopeless but the patient has decided to try prayer and repentance, and suddenly the burden of illness lifts. After that, the patient takes little interest in the views of new atheists, or the views of any atheists at all, on a permanent basis.
By the way, since I am here anyway, this may be a convenient time to make a “hint” announcement: I will shortly be offering a contest in which interested contributors may win a free copy of the Expelled vid or other works, as arranged. I will ask a question, based on a news story, and all responses will be judged. I will try not to be too partisan; I am mainly interested in rewarding the best contribution in 400 words or less.
More details later, once I get this index out of my life.